Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Armor - How much can you afford to endure?

A knight’s main weapon of war is his armor, right?  I know, doesn’t seem like it should be called a weapon, so if you want, think of it as a tool of the trade ... of war.  But what is armor?  Yeah, yeah, we all know - it’s the stuff you put between your skin and the other guy’s weapons, but is it just a matter of armor styles or simply of money.

In a fantasy game, better armor is nearly always simply a matter of money.  Let me explain my point, and to do so - I will use comic books!  Makes sense, right?  Give me a second on this.

Wolverine - sure he heals from anything and he’s a berserker, but how effective would he be without the adamantium?  Without claws and bones that cannot be broken, he would be all but useless against Colossus, Doctor Doom or anyone else with the slightest amount of protection.  It is the fact that you can’t simply cut him in half or behead him that actually makes him tough to kill, otherwise healing factor of not, he’d be lying in a heap at the beginning of every big fight.

Similar with the Black Panther.  We’re still trying to figure out if he is actually supposed to be super strong or just a black Tarzan, but in the comics and movies, it is his vibranium that makes him so tough to kill.  Without it, Hawkeye might be able to beat him.

So this is my point - I’ll bet your world either has adamantium and vibranium or substances that are similar.  Fletnern does!  But let’s take it to the next step:  magic!  Legend Quest has an enchantment spell that makes things tougher, in fact there are three:  harden, harden-steel, and harden-diamond.  So even if you didn’t have adamantium, you could still cast harden-diamond on things and it would be like walking around wearing the densest stuff known to man (maybe not densest known to modern man, but still in the top dozen and I do think top natural substance).

Wow!  Seems like I’m taking forever to get to the point here, but here it is:  If you can enchant leather to be stronger than steel, or find a metal stronger than steel, then why not build your armor out of that stuff?  And if you can afford to make your armor out of that stuff, how can you get wounded in the game?

I hear you yelling at that last paragraph - but you didn’t mention criticals.  True, but while that Robin Hood movie claims any boy can be taught to find the weak points in a knight’s armor, that job becomes vastly more difficult when you’re wearing a custom built suit of full plate armor.  Not only have you covered up what might have at one time been chain instead of plate, you have a suit of armor that the enemy has not seen before.  Sure, he will assume that the underarm is weaker than the breastplate, but he will not have been trained to defeat it.  Maybe your plates are articulated in a different fashion which makes piercing attacks from the front more difficult, though still possible from behind?  Yeah, Robin Hood’s boy wasn’t taught that in forestry school.

But take this to the magic world again, and the undercoat could be made of hell hound hide which is impervious to blades.  OK, I’m just making crap up now, but the point remains - Take a look at your warrior characters.  Ignoring how much you spent to make sure that your sword does both fire and shock damage, along with delivering a massive poison hit, how much have you invested in your armor?  Is +3 enough?

Go talk to your armor smith.  You know how much money you have and how much adamantium costs per pound.  Start by talking through the finer points of that.  Better yet - After you kill that celestial dragon thing, check out its skin.  How much armor did it have, and do you have a leather worker good enough to tan that hide into something that can become armor?  It is all a matter of money - How much can you afford to endure?

The next post will be about how GMs can make this not work for players.  Sort of a point-counterpoint kind of thing.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Shields - as weapons?

OK - I know most of you are out there playing D&D or Pathfinder or old school, but I want to cover an explanation of shield bashing in Legend Quest.

If you want to use your shield as a weapon while dual weapon fighting, it counts as an irregular ____.  Bucklers = saps, small shield = club, medium = mace, and large =cudgel.  The rules say that the strength needed for the shield is the strength needed for the weapon.

But what if your shield bash is your main attack and not part of dual weapon fighting (because no one has seven levels in Dual Weapon Fighting to handle a large shield).  The main questions have come down to this:

#1 - If shield bashing, can I use my weapon levels in my weapon to parry?  I think yes.  If you can use your shield levels to parry while attacking with a weapon, you should be able to use your weapon levels to parry while bashing with a shield.

#2 - Do I receive a negative modifier for attacking with my “off” hand?  No - Your shield is intended to be used with your off hand, so it does not receive a negative.  You are using it properly.  Even if you put a shield in your main hand, you still don’t get a minus, because it is your main hand.  A rare case of having your cake and eating it too.

and the more rarely asked:  #3 - Do I get surprise?  Quite often - yes!  Assuming this is not the first turn of combat, where the guy should be ready for anything, few soldiers would expect their enemy to do a quick shield bash instead of attacking with their main hand and main weapon.  However, I do think that characters who are more like adventurers and would be expecting more exotic forms of attack should get a chance to notice that you shifted your weight or your shoulders or whatever you would need to do to drive your strength into your other arm.  So case by case would get a chance to Sense the surprise and defend against it.

One more before we go - If you are attacking with shield, you do not get to use the weapon in your weapon hand to parry.

For any who don’t know the LQ rules - your skill with shields increases the amount of defense you get, but when being attacked from multiple sources, you may need to split these skills between those attacks.  Our intent has always been to allow players to create defensive fighters instead of only crafting offensive fighters, so parrying is equally as important as attacking.  The strategy is yours to tinker with.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Importance of Calendar

How’s the calendar work for your game world?  Do you keep it pretty accurately?  No?  Is that because you just can’t be bothered?  Yeah, that’s going to bite you in the ass.

There are a bunch of reasons for keeping a calendar, and I might be too harsh about keeping it accurately.  But what’s the point?  If you don’t keep a calendar, then you cannot say when things are or will be happening.  Let’s start with the easy and move to the important.

Keeping a calendar, you as the GM can keep track of how long it takes to get from place to place and back again.  This matters for a bunch of reasons.  The player characters should probably have some manner of responsibilities in their home town.  Maybe they aren’t paying rent, but they will need to pay for storage, or stable fees, or something to maintain their lives back home.  A calendar helps you keep the records fairly.

Most of my PCs at some point start to breed their own horses (or dogs, or dragon steeds, or pegasi, etc.).  The calendar helps determine how long the animal will be pregnant and how long it will take for it to grow up.  If the mare is the PC’s main steed, then while she’s getting ready to give birth or nursing, she’s out of the action.  But this isn’t the only “training” you need a calendar for.  If you are following your rules, you likely have to track the number of days your PCs are training in order to use their experience.

My World of Fletnern frequently has things going on that the players / player characters are not involved in.  There could be a war going on somewhere else or perhaps there is an upcoming wedding.  Knowing how long the party has been traveling or just out adventuring is needed in order to keep the two story lines in sync.

Do you know what happens when you don’t do this?  An army can cross a continent and back in the same amount of time it takes a raven to fly from one major fortress to the capital city, and that’s absurd.  How absurd?  Well, even casual watchers of that huge sword and sorcery show have noticed how stupid it is that armies are moving faster than ships are moving faster than ravens.  No, I actually started writing this blog post long before this season of the show started, but pointing out obvious plot holes is not something you want happening in your own game.

But in Fletnern it’s not just those really important things.  There are harvest festivals in fall, the Feast of Brakin in winter, rainy seasons in spring, and rodeos in summer.  So you need to know what season it is at least.  One role-playing tip:  I remember Thieves World (before it got out of control).  There was a big thing when the ships carrying the blood oranges came to town and the blood orange season only lasted a couple of weeks.  It was a really cool touch that I am remembering here nearly 40 years later.

One more gold farming reason - If it is late summer or early fall, then the wheat, corn or hay is going to be high - high enough to hide in.  If it is spring, then the fields are recently plowed and will show footprints very easily and there will be no cover.  Winter - Is it snowing?  Same tracking issues.  Winter also means needed to bundle up.  If a prisoner escapes in winter, his first requirement is going to be shelter and heat.  In summer, he might be more interested in escaping the area and then worrying about food and water.

One other side to calendars is that they can be the motive of the mission.  There are those places where you need to be in a certain spot at a certain time in order to see something important - maybe a keyhole or simply lining up the sun at a temple for the summer or winter solstice.  Or (and these are more my favorites) you need to go and get something and return with it before something happens.  I do believe that when the party knows there is a time limit on what they’re doing, it changes the way they play.  A party that stops frequently and let’s their spell casters rest is going to be far more aggressive if they know that spending an extra five hours resting could mean that they arrive too late to save the princess.

The last but really not least point is this:  Because I have been using my world of Fletnern for decades now, I often want to (sometimes need to) go back and try to figure out what I set up the last time.  OK, maybe I don’t have to, but I can use what I already created without reinventing the wheel.  Trying to keep track of how things are going or went or even figure out how long this party has been adventuring together - this stuff matters!

Calendars are easier when you’re just starting off!  It isn’t until you’re running multiple campaigns in the same world at the same time that things start to get tricky.  So while it is easy - keep the calendar.  You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Strip Maps

Few people of Fletnern use maps.  For the everyday person, even those who might be traveling from one place to another, will not use a map.  If they do not know where they are going, they can ask for directions or rely on road signs.  Every town that wants to be visited (engage in trade) makes certain that there are sufficient signs directing people to their town.

The main users of maps are the navigators, most commonly those on ships.  They need to be able to spot and recognize land marks, even if they are simply a stretch of coast.  Surveyors and other governmental officials use maps but most often in the collecting of taxes and not in exploration.  These maps are incredibly expensive.  Not only are they expensive to craft, but they are incredibly expensive to make accurately.

When travelers are looking to use a map, they most commonly buy a strip map.  Not only are these maps vastly cheaper to craft and develop but they don’t waste space showing a traveler a piece of land they will never see, most typically anything away from the road.  All a strip map shows is what the traveler should expect to see while following the road, river, or whatever established path the map explains.  Nearly every purchaser of this type of map understands that the map maker was paid by certain people along the way to make certain that their businesses are included on the map.  For instance, if you buy a particular strip map, you will be shown where the inns are that helped the map maker, but probably not see the ones that didn’t give him a little extra.  One would hope that the cartographer was steering you towards the best inns, but that is not necessarily the case.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

September Setting Sale

So that you know - Board Enterprises' settings are on sale through the end of the month at RPG Now.  That means that you get 33% off Urban Developments and our other setting products.
Click here to participate, but you only have until the end of September.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Urban Adventures

If you have not game mastered urban adventures before, they tend to be far different than running a dungeon crawl.  For one thing, it is a lot harder to keep the party of characters together.  Quite often, they all have different priorities and tend to wander off to pursue them.  This is most likely because they feel safe; they feel they can wander off without fear of being killed within the city limits.

Especially in a campaign where battle can occur in the streets and alleys, having members of the party in different parts of the city can not only be confusing and difficult to administer, it can be downright dangerous.  But these choices need to be those of the players and the player characters.  If they insist on living dangerously, it is your job as the GM to punish them for it, possibly even killing them because of it.
One of the main benefits of a dungeon style adventure is that the GM can determine many of the parameters surrounding a fight.  The dungeon is mapped; the ceilings can be pre-determined; line of sight angles can only come in so many variations.  This is not true of an urban adventure.  Fights can break out in intersections or parks, and line of sight can be affected by everything from buildings to trees to moving horse drawn coaches.  This adds to the complexity for the game master.  You and the players have to have a prearranged agreement that you know more about the staging than you can describe and they simply have to go with it.  Any player who argues about there not being a clearly defined map that he can place his figure on needs to be counseled after the game session that he’s being a jerk and needs to knock it off.

One of the best things that urban adventures can bring is the concept of overlapping time lines.  It is likely that several different things are all going on at the same time in the same town.  The main “mission” could be rivalries between merchant houses, while at the same time some thieves are feuding over a magical weapon they have stolen from its rightful owner.  The point is that even substantial clues and activities might not belong to your mission, but instead to someone else’s.

Urban missions are great for not having that “end boss” (aka the big, nasty, evil guy at the end).  There are multiple factions in a city.  Some will oppose the party, while others may be possible allies.  With so many moving parts, the adventurers should be a little confused.  They should never be 100% certain of whom they can trust, and that will keep the suspense high.

Further, not everything should be spelled out for them up front.  They will need to find clues, talk to people and learn as they go.  Obviously not everything they learn will be accurate, but again, more suspense and more fun.  This need for investigation may be new to some of your players who have never been challenged like this in a role-playing game.  Hopefully they will find it more exciting due to the newness and challenge.  As GM, you should also expect that characters who had pre-defined roles in more combat intensive missions may find themselves in completely different roles here.  Warning - Big, dumb fighter is not all that useful, until combat breaks out, if it does at all.

This is just a warning; we do not want to discourage you from running urban adventures.  As you and your players mature, the idea of hundreds of underground complexes filled with monsters becomes too much for the willful suspension of disbelief.  When that happens, you will find yourself working on the urban missions and avoiding the crawls.

Happy Harpooners

Hey!  Another FREE edition of How to Build Your Fantasy World in Small Bites (or "Small Bites") has been posted.  Just click right here.

It says All About Sea Ports, so it's boring, right?  Just stupid stuff about how they make piers and what color the water is.  Of course not!  There's lots of stuff about whales and whalers.  I gotta tell you I think whaling has got to be one of the most intense professions possible in a fantasy world.  Yes, days of relative boredom followed by a huge chase, harpooning a whale and being dragged along, then trying to kill the whale before he overturns the boat.

But this is Small Bites.  We have characters, cool NPCs, cooler locations, missions, etc.  Oh, yeah, what would you do if you knew a sea monster powerful enough to destroy the port was steaming in towards the city?  Not just a sea monster, but a demonic sea monster.  Yeah - that's what the campaign starter kit is all about.  Demons, spirits, a haunted castle, this is high fantasy!  OK, but in fairness, that's all in the GM edition and not the free World Walker edition, but still, take a look at the free stuff and we hope you'll see that there's enough here that you're going to want the extra 32 pages!